Pregame quick hits from Francona

April, 6, 2010
BOSTON -- Opening Night seems forever ago.

At least that’s how Red Sox manager Terry Francona feels. After Boston defeated the New York Yankees 9-7 Sunday night at Fenway Park, the teams had Monday off and get back at it tonight.

“It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve played,” Francona said. “Spring training you’re out there every day, but again, it was nice to give the players [the day off] because it was a late night, a long day. It was nice to let guys get their lives organized a little bit.”

Here are some notes from Francona’s pregame meeting with the media:

* Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz will throw a simulated game Wednesday afternoon at Fenway. Due to the three off days to start the season, the right-hander isn’t scheduled to make his debut on April 11 in Kansas City. In order to stay sharp, he’ll work tomorrow.

“Whatever he needs, but it won’t be huge,” said Francona. “That will get the rust off going into his start.”

* Red Sox pitcher Junichi Tazawa had Tommy John surgery today, but Francona had not received an update as of 4 p.m.

* Francona was not on hand during the press conference on Monday when the Red Sox announced the four-year, $68 million contract extension for pitcher Josh Beckett. When Francona held his daily briefing, he commented on the new deal.

“I thought they handled it so well,” said Francona. “For that to get done the way it did, I thought was really professionally done. I remember back when we signed [John] Lackey, Theo gave Josh a call and thinking, ‘Good move.’ They did a really good job together. In a place like this it’s hard to get a deal done without a lot being said, and you never heard anything about it. I know Theo did a great job, but I think Beckett handled himself very well.”

* Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester gets the nod tonight against the Yankees. The southpaw was 1-1 with a 4.43 ERA in four starts against New York in 2009. Overall, he’s 3-1 with a 3.88 in eight career starts against the Yankees. The Red Sox expect great things from him again this season.

“We’re excited,” Francona said. “He had, I think the word I would use this spring is ‘powerful’ because right from the get-go he was out there grunting and the expectations of himself are really high. We just need to get him into that groove where he feels good about himself because once he gets to that he’s one of the best in the game.”

* Francona had a meeting with the non-starters prior to the season opener and asked those players to be patient as far as playing time because there are three off days in the first nine days of the season. When asked if he talked with veteran third baseman Mike Lowell about what his role would be this season, Francona didn’t have to single him out of the group.

“He has a good understanding and I can’t tell somebody something that I don’t know,” said Francona. “We basically told the guys who aren’t starting in our meeting the other day is, ‘You have to be patient.’ You don’t want guys to sit for very long, but at the same time you want the guys who are playing to kind of get into a groove, too. The first 10 or 12 days are always difficult on everybody because if you lose patience you can get frustrated.”

* Top Red Sox prospect Ryan Westmoreland, who had brain surgery on March 16 to remove a malformation, was in attendance on Opening Night. He visited with many players and staff members, including Francona.

“It was great,” said Francona. “It was very nice to see him.”

* Speaking of Opening Night, Francona joked that he thought it was someone other than Neil Diamond who was singing “Sweet Caroline” live in the eighth inning.

“I don’t know if the Red Sox want to hear this, but I thought it was Dick Vitale,” Francona said.

The Red Sox manager was hoping for a visit from by Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, who sang "God Bless America" in the seventh inning.

“I wish, he’s my favorite,” he said.

Francona was also pumped to see former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

“The fans got to show their appreciation and it was pretty obvious Pedro was enjoying it -- as he should. I thought it was a pretty good idea,” Francona said.

Joe McDonald

ESPN Staff Writer



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